By Taryn Chase, MA, LPC, LCADC, NCC
One year ago, this was the last “normal” Saturday night we would have. I had just picked up my brand new car from the dealership and was sitting at home having sushi and watching a movie. Flash forward one year later, and it’s a much different world. We heard the name COVID-19 or Sars-Cov-2 in other areas of the world and the country, but none of us thought this would become 12 months of working from home and socially distancing. In the wise words echoed over social media, we are one year into a two week isolation period to flatten the curve and decrease the surge of cases. One year into quarantine, so much has changed, and yet nothing has changed. Vaccinations and tests are readily available for some, but not others.
As a therapist, this last year I have seen an increase in the number of people, both in my personal life and professional life, struggling with depression and anxiety as well as substance use issues. Social isolation has increased tremendously. In pre-pandemic life, we always suggested that people join groups or spend time with friends and family to try and distract themselves from their pain. During pandemic life, it's harder to do that. As someone who usually keeps a small circle, it’s been hard to build and sustain friendships in general, and now we've very much had to depend on technology to see and talk to people. I am in front of a computer approximately eight hours a day conducting telehealth sessions, and its caused burn out for me as well as others.
We as people have been craving contact with others face to face. I hear it from my clients all the time. People are trying to balance their desire to live their lives, be safe, and have consideration for others. We are finding ourselves at a crossroads with our values not matching our actions. We have a choice to make when it comes to where we go from here.
Over this last year, our reliance on alcohol and other substances to cope has increased dramatically. Beer and wine sales have increased 21%, and liquor sales have increased 24% according to Nielsen’s Marketing Data. Last year I wrote about drinking in the initial phase of lock down here in New Jersey. The data proves that we're buying and consuming much more alcohol than we have in previous years.
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Lorrenzo Leggio, a researcher with the National institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, stated that, "We know from previous traumatic events, Katrina and 9/11, people who survived some of them developed alcohol use disorder relating to the increase in stress." He continued, "Long after the pandemic passes, people will struggle with patterns of excessive drinking and addiction that start now while they're isolating at home," (link to this interview can be found here).
We have seen how easy it is to use alcohol and substances to cope, and I have talked to many people who use it regularly to help them feel better or to relax at the end of the night. I often ask my clients, whose use might be problematic, how their use is benefitting them and how it’s affecting their ability to achieve their goals. Sometimes it's not affecting them, and other times it is. I think it’s important to look at the reasons why we're using. We all have our own reasons, and we should see if we can find healthier ways of coping so we don’t become dependent on a substance.
It’s important to note that the only person who can say if you have problematic use and/or a substance use problem is you. If you or someone you know has a problem with their use, please reach out for help through therapeutic services at 1-844-276-2777 to speak with a care coordinator and get connected with a treatment provider close to you. If you are looking for online meetings, please visit smartrecovery.org/, NA.org, or AA.org.
As we move into this next stage of working from home and social distancing, we need to work on continuing to be safe with how we cope with our feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. We need to practice our self-care strategies more and more as we move into this next phase of pandemic life.
To learn more about Mindful and Multicultural Counseling (located in Ewing, NJ) and receive support, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.